In a recent post, I discussed the significance of leading from the front (see here). Children imitate their parents so it is important that we are positive role models. As I’ve mentioned before, my children love coming to the gym. They enjoy mimicking what they see. They have become mini gym rats because that is the only life they’ve ever known. Living an active life has certainly sparked a similar interest in my children.
Setting a positive example is not enough however. As parents, we must also enable our kids to find activities that they enjoy. Leading from the front is a step in the right direction, but it isn’t enough to do what you enjoy while hoping that your children hop on board and follow suit. Kids need the opportunity to enjoy their own activities, rather than always copying what we do.
Unfortunately, many parents become too busy with their own lives to make time for extracurricular activities for their children. As an active parent in the community, I am used to seeing the same kids at all of the local events. Meanwhile, there are loads of kids who remain home without the opportunity to participate.
Being a parent means sacrificing your time for your children. We are all busy in today’s world. A busy lifestyle isn’t an excuse. Many of us work long hours. I am well aware of the challenges that parents encounter trying to balance their schedules with those of multiple children. It isn’t always easy, and there are many times when it seems like we (the parents) have a million things going on at once.
Yet despite the often clashing and hectic schedules, there is nothing better than watching your child have an opportunity to compete in an event that they enjoy. Earlier this week, my son (pictured above) participated in a track and field challenge that has been hosted annually for the last 14 years. He won first place in the 400 meter race.
In the two days since, he can’t stop talking about it. All he wants to do is race again. Fortunately, it didn’t take long to find another event in the area next month. Now my son is asking how to train for the upcoming race. I wouldn’t trade that excitement for anything in the world.
My kids cannot find these events on their own however. They don’t read the newspaper or browse the web. It’s up to the parents to find activities that their children can participate in. My kids have played baseball, soccer, track, gymnastics, etc. I give them the chance to try whatever they like. I am not pushing them to follow my interest in boxing. I want them to find what they enjoy.
Unfortunately, kids won’t know what they enjoy if they aren’t given the opportunity to participate. While my children are out playing sports, plenty of others are at home sitting in front of the television. Upon speaking with one of the local race directors, she mentioned how participation has declined steadily over the years. Fewer kids come out to participate in these free community events. She was adamant that more and more kids sit in front of the television rather than playing outside.
Research tends to support her observations. One recent study found that children between the ages of 8 months and 8 years were exposed to an average of 232.2 minutes of background television per day. That’s almost 4 hours a day!
Parents need to stop being so lazy. Don’t use the television as a distraction to keep your child occupied. Doing so does nothing for their development. Kids need the opportunity to get outside and explore the world. Not every child needs to be an athlete, but at least give them the opportunity to participate. Children involved in sports learn valuable lessons about teamwork, competition, discipline, and respect. The kids also have fun!
As a coach in the town, I can say with certainty that most kids enjoy playing sports. I always have kids who want to stay after practice. The kids want to be there. More parents need to step up and enable their children to participate. Regularly sitting your child in front of the television so you can do your own thing is pathetic. Your child is your responsibility. Children do not come fully trained and ready for the world. How they develop depends on how you develop them on a daily basis.
Children are like sponges. They soak everything up around them. It is our job as parents to make sure they have the opportunity to absorb beneficial activities that they will enjoy and learn from. Leading an active lifestyle is a great way to encourage such a life for your child. Let your kids get out and find what they truly enjoy.
Lead from the front while enabling them to pursue their own passions.
“Don’t handicap your children by making their lives easy.” – Robert A. Heinlein